Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis) is caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, a protozoan parasite related to an African version that causes sleeping sickness. It is endemic to Mexico, Central America, and South America, where an estimated 8 million people have the illness, most of whom do not know they are infected. If untreated, infection is lifelong and can be life threatening, the CDC noted.
The CDC says that most of the Chagas cases in the US are from people who have traveled to Latin America, and were infected there. But Garcia told HealthDay News her research showed that the parasite has arrived in the US, and the government agency has admitted that triatomine bugs can be found across the lower half of the country.